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Medical marijuana use up 83% in state; PTSD most common condition treated
Chicago Tribune - 10/5/2018
Oct. 05--After campaigning to convince other veterans that marijuana can help treat post-traumatic stress disorder, Colin Bond is finally seeing that people are heeding his advice.
PTSD has become the most common condition treated by patients who use medical marijuana in Illinois, according to a new state report that also shows overall use of medical pot has risen 83 percent this year in Illinois with more than 46,000 users.
Bond takes the increased use of marijuana for PTSD as a sign that word is spreading that veterans have something to help them reduce or get off prescription painkillers and antidepressants, as he did.
"I have more good days in between my bad days," Bond said. "More important, when I do have a bad day, it's like a road bump, nothing like it used to be."
The number of patients with PTSD who were certified to buy cannabis more than doubled in the state's fiscal year, to more than 4,000. That surpassed fibromyalgia, which had about 3,400 patients, and cancer, which accounted for about 2,500 patients. Those conditions ranked first and second last year.
The other most common qualifying conditions were spinal cord disease and injuries, followed by traumatic brain injuries and post-concussion syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
The increase in use for PTSD was due in part to Gov. Bruce Rauner adding it to the list of about 40 qualifying conditions in 2016.
Still, addiction specialists continue to warn about the chances for substance abuse. Dr. Aaron Weiner, of Linden Oaks Behavioral Health in Naperville, said the 2.5 ounces of pot allowed every two weeks under the program provides for frequent daily use, which is linked to addiction. He also warned that the marijuana sold in Illinois dispensaries contains up to about 90 percent THC, the element that makes users high, far more than traditional street pot.
He called the program "deeply flawed."
Yet the total number of patients has climbed each year, nearly doubling the first two years and increasing 83 percent this year. The total number of patients now exceeds 46,000 as of Wednesday, with sales of about $12 million a month.
Officials expect those numbers to increase significantly again since Rauner last month signed into law a measure to allow medical marijuana to be used in place of opioid prescription painkillers. The new law also eliminates the requirements for fingerprints and criminal background checks that forced applicants to wait about three months for approval.
Almost three-fourths of the patients are more than 40 years old -- in contrast to the demographics of recreational use legalized in other states, where most users are much younger.
Cook County had by far the greatest number of patients, with almost 7,500, followed by DuPage, Lake and Will counties.
The number of doctors who certified patients grew from about 2,100 last year to more than 3,000 this year. Most qualify fewer than 25 patients each, but 29 physicians certified more than 100 patients each.
The state also approved more than 4,000 designated caregivers in the past fiscal year covered by the report, from July 1 through June 30.
The report also ranked the popularity of retail dispensaries, with Dispensary 33 in Chicago's Andersonville community leading with more than 1,400 patients, followed by The Clinic Mundelein, EarthMed in Addison, 3C Compassionate Care Center in Naperville and MOCA Modern Cannabis Dispensary in Logan Square.
(c)2018 the Chicago Tribune
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